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posted June 8, 2006

Cob Courtyard News

From Georgie Donais:

It's truly satisfying for me to see people sitting near the cob, having picnics or eating cafe food, and generally enjoying the new space. The wall made it through the winter just fine, though there was some vandalism and also some plaster failure. I had intended to call a work bee to fix up the plaster, but I'm going to be trying some plaster experiments which means hard-to-schedule, slow-going work, so I will tackle that on my own instead.

When the big cob-building project was going on last summer, people kept asking: so where’s the toilet going to be? For parents and caregivers of young kids, the lack of a toilet near the playground has been a drawback for years. And Georgie has been interested in the ecology of sewage forever – i.e. composting toilets.

The brother of a cob volunteer, living in the southern U.S., heard about the cob project and offered to donate an industrial-strength composting toilet (the kind used in campgrounds and highway rest stops). There was no place for it in the courtyard structure, but there’s a good spot nearby, just south of the wading pool. In the fall, Georgie started talking to the park manager about the idea. She proposed building another smaller cob structure to surround the composting toilet. The manager was interested, so Georgie designed a beautiful, sculptural little cob building and applied for two small grants to cover its cost. Both grants – $10,000 from the Toronto Arts Council, and $2000 from the Parks and Trees Foundation – were recently approved.

The Parks manager has changed in the meantime, and on June 1 Georgie and several park staff met with Sandy Straw, the new Parks manager for Toronto and East York, Peter Leiss, the new West Parks maintenance supervisor, and Chris Martin, the new West Parks horticulture supervisor. Georgie showed them detailed drawings, specs, etc. (including the number of bums the toilet can accept before it needs a rest). Hopefully the final details can be worked out soon, and we can see how a composting toilet works in a city park. This means more clay and straw and sand and water and stomping with feet and shaping this summer, for playground visitors who like to build.

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